By Faith Muteti
In a historic gathering at the first-ever National Cancer Summit held on February 2, 2023, Kenya's Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha revealed a disturbing surge in reported cases of reproductive organ cancer. Nakhumicha emphasized the severity of the situation by disclosing that more than nine women lose their lives to cervical cancer every day in the country.
Reproductive organ cancers cast a wide net, affecting various parts of the reproductive system in both women and men. Women face risks to their ovaries, uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, vagina, and vulva, while men are susceptible to cancers of the testes, prostate, and penis. The causes range from genetic predisposition and hormonal imbalances to infections and environmental exposures.
During an interview on Citizen TV, Dr. Innocent Maranga, a seasoned Gynaecologist, shed light on the diverse symptoms associated with reproductive organ cancers. Abnormal bleeding, often occurring in postmenopausal women or those with irregular periods can serve as a red flag. Other warning signs include pelvic pain or pressure, fatigue, changes in bowel or bladder habits, and unexplained weight loss. Dr. Maranga stressed the importance of paying attention to these signs and promptly seeking medical advice.
Treatment for reproductive organ cancers involves a multi-faceted approach, combining surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, and targeted therapy. The choice of treatment depends on the specific type and stage of the cancer, as well as the individual's overall health and preferences.
Regular screenings, such as Pap smears and mammograms for women and testicular exams for men, play a crucial role in early detection. Dr. Maranga urged the public to prioritize maintaining a healthy lifestyle, emphasizing the importance of regular exercise, a balanced diet, and avoiding canned foods to reduce the risk of developing these cancers.
In a bid to offer hope to young women facing reproductive organ cancer who dream of starting a family, Dr. Maranga recommended harvesting and storing seeds for fertilization before undergoing treatment.
Sarah Akinyi, a survivor of cervical cancer, shared her journey of resilience and determination. "It was a tough road, but with the right treatment and support, I managed to conquer this disease. Early detection saved my life," Akinyi remarked.
John Kariuki, a prostate cancer survivor, echoed the sentiment of the importance of awareness and early intervention. "Men tend to neglect their health, but routine check-ups and awareness campaigns are vital. It's a battle we can win with knowledge and early detection," Kariuki emphasized.
As the nation grapples with the escalating threat of reproductive organ cancers, the call to action is clear. Prompt reporting of symptoms, adherence to recommended screenings, and a collective commitment to a healthier lifestyle can turn the tide against this silent and insidious adversary.